The Workshop and Levee Studios


The University of Tasmania is in the implementation stage of the $300 million Northern Transformation that sees new University campuses constructed at West Park in Burnie and Inveresk in Launceston. On the Inveresk site, the multi-staged development entails new buildings distributed throughout newly landscaped areas alongside existing heritage listed buildings. Xsquared Architects, in collaboration with BVN Architecture, is delighted to be working with the University to revitalise two of these heritage buildings – the Architecture Building and the Stone Building.

Directly adjacent to University of Tasmania Stadium, the striking freestanding Architecture building, formerly known as the Diesel Locomotive Workshop, has previously been converted into teaching spaces for the School of Architecture and Design, including an addition forming the School of Fine Furniture.

Xsquared Architects undertook exhaustive stakeholder consultation with future users to create a shared vision for the project, internally and externally. As a result, the revitalised building provides a vibrant blend of workplace, teaching and learning, workshop and amenity spaces, with a particular focus on ‘learning through making’. The existing strong visual connection between studio spaces and workshop spaces is reinforced, and the introduction of the School of Creative Arts and Media into the building broadens the scope and extent of ‘making’ as part of this program.

Minimal external alterations to the building envelope allow a particular focus on internal refurbishment, achieving increased internal activity and showcasing the dramatic internal spaces within the building. Existing 50 tonne overhead cranes dating back to the days of the building’s workshop use, and the expansive concrete support trusses that they run on, create unique foci for surrounding spaces, both existing and new. Where possible, large open floor plates and spaces are retained. Elsewhere, new floor plates are extended within existing voids to create additional area where needed and where they contribute to the spatial drama of the internal spaces. Generally, minimal and sensitive external works recognise the historical and local attributes of the building exterior and of the broader precinct. This facilitates visual and physical connectivity with new and existing adjacent precinct buildings. The only exception to this is the new entry ‘marker’ and elevated outdoor deck and garden overlooking University Square. A common balustrade treatment, running from outside to inside and back through the building, ties the external space of the Square into the heart of the revitalised building.

The proposal is ‘light-touch’ and ensures both physical and visual permeability is enhanced, and the overall industrial ambience of the building is retained. The project pursues an ambitious sustainability agenda, with the design considered against a ‘whole life carbon’ assessment methodology to achieve greater than 30% whole life carbon savings compared with a comparable new build. The research supporting this achievement is being made available to the University to underpin the carbon case for revitalisation of other existing heritage buildings – not only of the Northern Transformation, but of the Southern Transformation that sees a new University campus created within the Hobart CBD. This approach to ESD, with a strong carbon focus, puts the design work at the forefront of best practice and makes a positive contribution to the broad Tasmanian community with a carbon neutral built environment in mind.

Photos By Natasha Mulhall